The music of Mountain Roads is a very personal statement. I feel very deeply about every bit of it. The musical plan of it follows the model a Baroque cantata, and style and content reflect my years of study of the Bach chorales, and of Bach in general. Obviously there are no words in my “cantata” but the music revolves entirely around two chorale melodies. The main one is “Alle menschen mussen sterben” (All men must die) and the second is “Wo soll ich fliehen” (Where shall I run to?).
Movements I, III, IV, V, and VI are all a large evolutionary process on “Alle menschen mussen sterben”. “Wo soll ich fliehen” appears in part in the first movement, and is given it’s full exposition in II. The actual melody of “Alle menschen mussen sterben” does not appear until the four variations of the chorale that end the sixth movement.
The title Mountain Roads comes from a dream that I had while writing this piece. In it I was part of a work crew making new roads in high mountain country. It was springtime, the weather was clear, sunny and comfortable, although there was still snow on the ground. The effect of the place was exhilarating as only mountain wilderness can be. It seemed to me that the dream was a beautiful metaphor for new life and new spiritual opening.
The paradox embodied in this exuberant and uplifting music lies in the title of the main chorale “All men must die”, and further reinforced by the second chorale “Where shall I run to?”. The first title suggests the inevitability of death, but is neither morbid nor about mass destruction. The idea of death is not so much about final end as about change. The process of growth is constantly about “dying” to one way of thinking or feeling, and opening to another. After all is said and done, there is the fact of physical death. The awareness of that fact points up our deep attachment to all the forms of this life. It makes experience of all things both deeply sweet and deeply sad. It also suggests the inevitable release of all the forms that we know, and the movement toward whatever exists beyond form.
Program Note by David Maslanka